Once upon a time there was a house. It was a beautiful house, in a little village just on the outskirts of Middle-of-Nowhere. It had been built many years ago in a time when, maybe, houses were a little more elegant than they are these days, and it wore its age with grace. It was a white house, with roses growing over the door and it had lots of rooms inside for guests to come and stay in , for Middle-of-Nowhere was not the sort of place that people tended to pass through, and just drop in. If they came, they came to stay. Children loved the house, and especially its garden; full of flowers and vegetables and secret hidey-holes.
There was a man who lived in the house. He lived there all alone; but the house didn't want to be lived in by just one man, so it spoke to him and told him to find a family to live in it. So the man went and talked to another man, whose name was Malcolm, and asked him to find a family who could live in his house.
But Malcolm didn't do very well and so the man got cross with him and told him to go away, and decided that he would find a family to live in his house himself. This was a good thing because anyway, if Malcolm had found the family, the man would have had to pay him lots of money and he didn't really want to do this.
As if by magic, in the height of Summer, a family appeared. There were five of them and they loved the house but they weren't sure that they could buy it because there weren't any jobs for the Mummy in Middle-of-Nowhere and she wasn't yet ready to decide to leave the job she already had in Big Smoke. They said that they would make a decision in the Winter, and the man was happy with this, because if he sold the house before the snow came he would still have to pay Malcolm, and he really didn't want to do this.
Summer passed, and Autumn came, and the Mummy and Daddy decided that they did want to move to Middle-of-Nowhere. So they talked to the man and he said he would still sell them his house but that there were some people from across the sea who might want to buy it. Now the Mummy and Daddy wanted to go and see the house again before they decided to buy it, but Middle-of-Nowhere is not easy to get to so they couldn't go straight away. And the man said that that was fine, and he promised not to sell the house to the people from across the sea (we will call them the Van Hoobie Doobies) in the meantime.
So the Mummy and Daddy went to look at the house, and the man was very kind to them and very keen that they should live in the house. And the house was just as beautiful as they remembered. So they said to the man that they wanted to buy it. And he went all weird on them and wouldn't say anything.
So the Mummy and Daddy went back to Big Smoke, very sad and confused, and did everything they could think of that might make the man stop being weird and sell them his house. They rang their bank, and they talked to their work, and they found a friend for Malcolm who could sell their little house in Big Smoke, and they telephoned the man and said all this and he still wouldn't say anything.
So they found a lawyer, and asked him to find out what was going on. And he spoke to another lawyer, who spoke to another lawyer, who said "Oh, well he's sold it to the Van Hoobie Doobies already". So the Mummy and Daddy spoke to the man and asked him why he had let them come all the way to Middle-of-Nowhere if he had already sold the house to someone else and he said that he didn't realise he had. The Mummy and Daddy weren't entirely convinced by this but they had to accept it and go sadly on with their lives in Big Smoke. They wondered about telling Malcolm that the man had sold the house before the snow came but didn't. Instead they consoled themselves with strolling on a nearby hill, Moral High Ground, telling each other that it would all turn out for the best.
But... the Mummy and Daddy had liked Middle-of-Nowhere, with its beautiful scenery, its good schools and its big houses very much so they decided that they would telephone all of Malcolm's friends in and around Middle-of-Nowhere, to see if there were any other houses. And so, eventually, they talked to Malcolm himself. And they said to themselves that they wouldn't mention the house to Malcolm, but Malcolm mentioned the house to them and said that he would call the man and see if he might still want to sell the house to the Mummy and Daddy.
And the Mummy and Daddy thought about lying to Malcolm, and not telling him that they already knew the house, and already loved it. But Malcolm is, despite his profession, a nice man, and they decided that this wasn't fair. So they told Malcolm the whole story. And the thing is, Malcolm knew the Van Hoobie Doobies too. In fact, he had introduced the Van Hoobie Doobies to the house, and to the man. And in fact the man had agreed to sell his house to the Van Hoobie Doobies in the Spring, long before the Mummy and Daddy had even heard of the house, but he hadn't told Malcolm, and he hadn't told the Mummy and Daddy. He had just lied to them all throughout, and told them all that the house had not been sold, and was still looking for a family, and that Malcolm was a nasty man, because he didn't want to pay Malcolm his money.
But now Malcolm knows.
So the house is still sold, and the Mummy and Daddy will have to find somewhere else to live, but the man will have to pay Malcolm his money which will make him very cross. And in the meantime the Mummy and Daddy will continue to stroll on the (lower slopes perhaps) of Moral High Ground.
Oh, and if the twee fairy tale version irritates, believe me, it's much better than the expletive laden one I wrote first...